CENTRAL VALLEY: Health Indicators Rank Near Bottom Of State
"Welcome to the Central Valley, where the death rate from heart disease is worse than average, teen-age girls have babies at a rate higher than anywhere else in California, and if you're from Fresno County, the only place where you're more likely to be murdered is Los Angeles County," begins a Fresno Bee story on a new statewide report card by the California Department of Health Services. The report ranks the state's 58 counties according to 20 health categories, including rates of birth, disease and death. According to the report, Tulare county has the state's highest rate of teen pregnancy, followed by Kings, Kern, Merced, Fresno and Madera. Infant mortality among African Americans was highest in Kings and Fresno counties, with infants born there "twice as likely to die before they reach their first birthday than most everywhere else in California." Fresno also ranked 54th among the 58 counties in incidence of low- birthweight infants. And "the six counties stretching from Merced to Kern have the dubious distinction of boasting the most teen pregnancies." "Too many adults pretend teens aren't having sex even though 'practically everybody's doing it,'" said high school senior Angel Cantu. Cantu, at age 18, is the mother of a 2-year-old daughter. Her own mother was 15 when she had Angel, and a 19-year-old cousin already has four children. "Too many girls glorify motherhood," says Cantu, but they don't see the responsibilities that keep young mothers home "Friday nights, when friends are attending football games and high school dances."
The Fresno Bee reports that the state report "unveils little new information. Public officials have known for years that there are more children living in poverty in the Valley than anywhere else in California." Carol Whiteside, president of the Great Valley Center think tank, said, "In addition to the personal tragedy of a homicide or a baby having a baby, all of this effects our ability to be an attractive site for economic development. It's really important that as a community we begin to deal with all of these numbers" (4/19).
Fresno Wins Developmental Services Grant
On a high note, a separate story in the Fresno Bee reports that the California Department of Developmental Services has awarded the Central Valley Regional Center, a Fresno-based agency for the developmentally disabled, nearly $250,000 in grants to help train its staff on health care issues. The center will use $100,000 to "film health and hygiene training videos" and $148,000 to develop a plan for its case workers to monitor disabled clients' medications. Established in 1970 and serving 8,500 families in six Central Valley counties, the Fresno center was one of 19 to share $1 million in department grants awarded Friday (Lewis, 4/19).